As much as the advanced warning might have helped, there was nothing that could have prepared us for the sight of Gigi Buffon walking out of the tunnel for the final time as a Juventus player on Saturday. There was nothing that could have prepared us for the reception and affection shown to San Gigi in the minutes before, during and after he took the field for the final time as a Juventus player.
It was a day to celebrate Buffon — the man, the player, the club icon.
The sign that read “G1G1 SANTO SUBITO” that was shown just before the second half started couldn’t have been more right on the money.
Juventus won its season finale 2-1 against Hellas Verona to finish off a seventh straight title-winning campaign with 97 points. They could have won it 17-0 and the story would have been about Buffon. It was always going to be about Buffon. This was the final day to see him wear the captain’s armband that he took over from his old buddy Alessandro Del Piero. It was the final day to see him run out to the goal and give his customary thumbs up and put his hands above his head to clap in a show of respect to the curva behind the goal.
Yet, as the 62nd minute arrived, nobody cared that Juve had just grabbed a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Daniele Rugani and a brilliant free kick from Miralem Pjanic. It was all about Buffon being subbed off.
The big bear hug and kisses to the side of the head for Andrea Barzagli.
The long, emotional hug for Claudio Marchisio as Buffon handed off a fresh captain’s armband — that was apparently kept in his sock the whole time — and headed toward the sideline.
One-by-one, no matter if it was a player, coach or trainer, Buffon was there for a hug.
Then, Buffon leaned back, sighed and took it all in.
There were few dry eyes at Allianz Stadium. The guy typing this sentence was an absolute wreck and anybody who has Juventus in their rooting interest had 17 years of Buffon playing for Juventus replaying in their mind as he left the field, made his way around the curva and then came out to lift the Scudetto one last time.
He went out at Juventus his way.
He went out how he wanted to in front of the fans who love him most.
And we loved every second of it — even with the accompanying tears.
Juventus won a game on what turned out to be a rainy Saturday in Turin. But it was so much more than that — and it was always going to be that way no matter what.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Buffon had to make one save against Hellas Verona. It was a good one. Fitting.
- In the 61 minutes and change that Buffon was on the field, Hellas Verona had a zero attached to their end of the scoreline. Fitting.
- Carlo Pinsoglio, a man who has gone out on loan after loan and co-ownership after co-ownership for the last decade, got to replace somebody he surely grew up watching in his Juventus debut. That had to be an absolute blast.
- Max Allegri was out of subs and still took Stephan Lichtsteiner off the field in the final minutes to get his much-deserved standing ovation from the Allianz Stadium crowd. We’ll just go ahead and forget about that penalty he took.
- Lichtsteiner smiled during the Scudetto presentation. Seriously.
- Mario Mandzukic didn’t really crack a smile during the Scudetto presentation. Classic.
- I, like Marchisio, would have hung onto Buffon as long as I possibly could as he came off the field and acknowledged each and every teammate.
- Marchisio played a full 90 for just the fifth time all season. That makes me feel good.
- Pjanic’s free kick — UNF.
- I know I’ve said it pretty much every time he plays the last three or four months, but Douglas Costa is so fun.
- Federico Bernardeschi’s lone job on Saturday? Be the guy who follows Buffon around with a giant bottle of champagne. He did his job to perfection.
- The one disappointing thing from Saturday’s game (besides all the Buffon stuff): Kwadwo Asamoah not getting to step onto the field one last time. :(
- This game is never being deleted from my DVR.
- I wasn’t crying, you were crying.